giving

On December 31st, my inbox fills with last-minute pleas from every Tom, Dick and Harry looking for money before the end of the year. It’s understandable, given that there are obvious financial benefits to maxing out one’s tax-credit allowance within the calendar year, but, let’s be honest, it’s gotten to the point where requests are so ubiquitous that we simply start to tune them out as white noise.

This year, I don’t want to let that happen. I don’t want the individual voices of need to get lost in a chorus of “Pick me!”s.

The truth is that I’m already well over the threshold of reaping any financial benefit of charitable giving. As my income has shrunken dramatically over the past few years, I’ve found it extremely difficult to pare back my support for the causes that I hold so dear. We’ve had to, of course, and while some of the decisions were heart-wrenching, others were made far easier by organizations stepping so far away from their stated missions that we quite emphatically discontinued our support. But others? Well, it remains nearly impossible to say no.

As our economy has contracted, so have vital programs disappeared and resource pools evaporated. But the need that they served hasn’t – and won’t- go away.

These are a four of the many charities that Luau and I chose to support this year. I hope that if you are considering a last-minute donation before midnight, or looking toward planning next year’s giving, you’ll consider them as beneficiaries. Or that you’ll be moved to find organizations in your own area that support local folks who need help.

As Laurence Leamer so beautifully wrote in the King of the Night, “The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.”

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{image is the Wounded Warrior homepage, on which a veteran sits in a chair holding a prosthetic leg. We can see in the photo that both of his legs are prosthetic as well. Click on the photo for more information.}

I abhor war. I am a pacifist by nature and I believe that violence is self-perpetuating and that the military industrial complex really is the root of an awful lot of evil.

I also believe that what I believe about war has nothing to do with the soldiers who are honor and duty-bound to fight them. And above all, I believe that we are ALL honor and duty-bound to care for those soldiers and their families when they return.

Since September 11th alone, Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn have left 6,846 soldiers dead, 52,293 physically wounded, and 320,000 with traumatic brain injuries. Additionally, over 400,000 of our soldiers suffer profound PTSD. (Source here.)

As federal resources have dwindled, those folks have been left to make their own way across a frayed tightrope without a net. That’s just not okay. It’s not okay for the soldiers, it’s not okay for their families, and it sure as hell isn’t okay for us as a society to send people into war and then leave them to fend for themselves on the other side. It’s not who we are. It’s not who I’m willing to be.

Wounded Warriors addresses the real and immediate needs of these soldiers. Through Project Odyssey they teach coping skills for PTSD. They offer family support, peer mentoring, economic empowerment through career transitioning services, adaptive sports events, and community engagement. They are doing the work that needs to be done. And they need our help to do it.

Click HERE to learn more.

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{image is a screenshot from the St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital homepage showing two researchers discussing a scan. The text reads, “Cutting-edge research. St Jude laboratories may not be in your community, but our discoveries are.”}

On the invitations to Katie’s first birthday party, we asked guests to donate to St Jude’s in lieu of gifts. So many did and nearly thirteen years later, she loves reading through the pile of cards marking the donations to the hospital made in her name.

Some time later, we signed on to be Partners in Hope, setting up an auto-pay donation every month. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done. St Jude’s protocols are shared freely with hospitals around the world. Pediatric cancer patients’ survival rates have gone from 20% to 80%. They are saving our children’s lives, whether we see their name on the door or not, and they never, ever charge their patients a dime.

Click HERE to learn more.

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{image is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network logo and motto, “Nothing About Us Without Us.” Click on the image for more information.}

For far too long, the conversation around autism has been, and sadly, continues to be, led by those who are not autistic. The problems with this are deep and far-reaching. Advocacy organizations like Autism Speaks continue to look at autism from the perspective of caregivers rather than autistic people, and in so doing, advocate in ways that unwittingly do far more harm than good.

ASAN does its damnedest to ensure that autistic people have a voice in the establishment of their own priorities, have a say in where and how they want to live, are consulted in whatever way possible when it comes time to make decisions about their lives. A couple of years ago, ASAN’s President, Ari Ne’eman signed a copy of the Loud Hands Anthology to Brooke. This is what he wrote.

{image is a photo of Ari’s signature, sloppily photoshopped to disguise Brooke’s real name. it reads, “To Brooke, Self-advocacy is your birthright. Look us up whenever you’re ready.”}

I give to ASAN because I want to ensure that they are there when my girl is ready.

Click HERE to learn more.

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{image is a blend of two photos on the homepage of Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC). It shows a smiling young boy in the foreground and two young men working together in the background. Click on the photo for more information.}

From a recent post:

I’m constantly asked which foundations we  support, given how problematic so many charities that claim to advocate for autistic people are. MAC is one of my go-to answers. In October, I wrote about the incredible work that they do, all on a shoestring budget thanks to their incredible staff of talented and dedicated volunteers.
MAC is on the ground with their sleeves rolled up doing the work that needs to be done. They are working with individuals, schools, doctors, lawyers, families and legislators to ensure that every child in Massachusetts has access to the Free and Appropriate Public Education guaranteed them under the law. They are changing the educational paradigm in this state and in so doing, making sure that no one, regardless of zip code, socioeconomic status, native language, or any of the myriad other factors that shouldn’t but do affect one’s chance at a fair shot are left out.
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That’s the stuff that matters. The stuff that evens the playing field and provides real access to it for the next generation of out-of-the-box thinkers and paradigm-smashers and new world inventors — our kids.
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(As an added bonus, for the next two weeks, you can support MAC by buying a wearable piece of Brooke’s artwork from another great organization, Paper Clouds Apparel. Click HERE to check it out and HERE to learn more about MAC.)
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So there you have it. Four of the many charities that Luau and I choose to support. Want some other ideas?
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Here’s one that costs no money.
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{image is a photo of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Platelet Donation page. Click on the photo for more information.}
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Any hospital that treats cancer patients needs platelets. Call your local hospital’s blood donation center to find out how you can help.
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And here’s one that is close to my heart and will mean the world to two beautiful children who deserve to stay right where they belong.
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{image is a beautiful photo of my friend, Morénike, her husband, and their five gorgeous children. Click on the link to read their story.}
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The short version of their very long story is this –Two of their children are biological. Three are adoptive, though the process is not yet complete thanks to convoluted laws and issues surrounding refugee resettlement. The adoptive children are among those who, far, far too often are left behind. They are older kids who have various developmental and mental health diagnoses that could make it difficult to find a loving home. But that wasn’t the way their story went. They found the perfect home – one filled with love and undaunted by their needs. A place that they belonged. A place where they are desperately wanted and unconditionally loved.
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Six weeks ago, Morénike and her husband were told that they would be unable to adopt their sons. That, despite all evidence (and there is a LOT of evidence) to the contrary, a group home would be a “better” place for them to be because such “high needs” cannot be “adequately  met” in a family. They were heartbroken. And angry. But not deterred.
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There is a lot more to the story, but much of it has to remain quiet to protect the children’s privacy, as it should. Thing is, that requires that those who offer to help take a leap of faith. In hoped that you might be willing to do just that, I offer my testimony that these are good, loving people who are getting screwed by a system that is, devastatingly, driven by money rather than concern for the welfare of the children it is charged with protecting.
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The family has enlisted the help of a team of attorneys who are doing everything they can to fight a corrupt system. Unfortunately, that takes money. $10,000 to be exact. It shouldn’t, but it does. They’re up to $8,372, leaving just $1,628 to go. Please click HERE if you can help them reach the goal and please know that no donation is too small. A dollar or two from enough of us could do the trick in a matter of minutes. These are real people who need our help.
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Thank you for reading, friends, and for being here day after day. I’d love to hear about the charities that YOU think we should be supporting too. Like, this one, for instance, that I adore. Or this one, which my kid adores. Or this one, which, well, you get the idea. Please feel free to leave links in the comments.
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See you next year, my loves.

5 thoughts on “giving

  1. Jess,
    We hope that Morenike and her husband are able to raise the much needed funds to fight for the needs of these children to triumph over a very corrupt, bureaucratic, and toxic system.
    In terms of charities that we like to support, we like Comfort Zone Camp which provides grief camp free of charge to children who have lost a parent or primary care-giver to death (my cub has benefitted from this and can attest first-hand to the immense benefit of being able to gather together with others who have a shared experience). Additionally, we always choose a third world school/orphanage to donate to as well as a couple of children/teens in our local school district. Being that I am a single parent who is now raising a family on my modest educators income, we live simply throughout the year so that others might live and as a family we have made the choice to gift our designated charities rather than receive gifts ourselves.

  2. I’m an (autistic) developmental pediatrician. Might I use your picture of the Loud Hands autograph for a talk I am giving in my department about disability advocacy?

    To often we address disability only as an individual medical condition, without teaching children and their families about the disability/neurodiversity community and it’s history. I am trying to convey how important it is for us as professionals to understand about neurodiversity and the disability rights movements, and empower our patients to become self-advocates and perhaps even activists some day. Mr. Ne’eman’s signature sums this up so perfectly.

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